Best of 2012, Instagram, Year End Recaps

Best of 2012: Best Instagrams

Hi guys. It’s been awhlie! This year’s kept me busy – I’ll show just how busy in a future post – and various health and financial troubles have kept me away from doing the personal music coverage I compulsively created in 2009-2011. That said, I’d like to kick-start the old blog, and what better way than to jump in with some “best of 2012” posts of my own? Tis the season, right? This will be the first in a series of daily blog posts covering my favorite work from a prolific year – from one-off projects to festivals to coverage of individual shows.

To get things started, I’m going to do something a little different. No rock photos yet, just the best 10 Instagrams I’ve posted all year.

Instagram? Why Instagram?

Most of my work has been either for clients that require an exclusivity period (like City Pages) or full exclusivity (like some PR clients). My personal photos, which used to show up on Flickr, have found a home on Instagram, the polarizing sharing system that photographers love to hate (and love). Even with recent shifts in Instagram’s image, thanks to their ridiculous attempt at a terms-of-service rights grab and their subsequent back-handed rollback amid user outrage and pressure from organizations like National Geographic and the ASMP, I’m a huge fan of the service for one big reason: It enables visual communication in a rapid, timely and transient way.

While Flickr is built to be a “long-tail” goldmine, with tagging, geodata, categorization, groups and all the API magic developers need to mine and utilize that constellation of data points in various ways, Instagram was constructed with a much more immediate goal in mind. Rather than becoming part of a search-optimized database of images, the significance of Instagram posts is ephemeral and fleeting. Posts have a “half-life” of sorts, because once they’fe fallen off the bottom of your followers’ feeds or the feeds of hashtags they’re tagged with, they’re unlikey to ever been seen again. That structure, combined with the fluid ease of posting/sharing, creates a very different visual language and community than the one on Flickr, a visual language I’ve come to enjoy it as part of my communication every day.

Because of this, Instagram’s become a diary of sorts for me. This year’s milestones, victories and defeats were all represented in my Instagram feed, more or less. Here are ten of my favorites from that diary that I’d like share. Further below are a bonus five from over 100 popular posts I made during a trip to Yellowstone earlier this year. Enjoy!

Top 10 Instagrams of 2012

#10 – Minnehaha Falls Textures

Every winter, there’s one photographic tradition that must be observed – a trip behind the frozen Minnehaha Falls. This time around I took along a borrowed Instax for a bit of texture exploration.

#9 – Welding First-Timer

I had the honor of visiting the local Hackerspace, the Hack Factory, on a Wednesday open house night earlier this year. A good friend of mine, Arturo, is a member there and actually snapped this photo with my DSLR. A fellow lacker offered us an impromptu class on welding techniques and we weren’t about to turn that down! Turns out melting metal to create things can be lots of fun.

#8 – Summer Biking

Since moving from Tampa to Minnesota in 2007, I’ve learned a great deal about how to make the most of a good summer day. This year I didn’t get out on my bicycle as much as I wanted to but I did manage to do my daily loop around the Stone Arch Bridge and Boom Island Park, with a stop or two at the Aster for cold press of course. The Mississippi River around Downtown Minneapolis and the gratuitous parkland surrounding it is a national treasure and one of the big reasons I love living in Minneapolis.

#7 – Eau Claire Time Lapse: International Space Station

I had the honor of accompanying my friend Dan out to his friend’s place in Eau Claire to do some overnight time lapses back in June. Dan’s an accomplished cinematographer and videographer and the time lapses we’ve built using a coule of DSLRs found their way into a few of his projects. While doing some exposure tests I noticed a bit of an anomaly in the sky – a bright light drifting across the frame. I pulled out the old iPhone, fired up Star Walk, and found out that the International Space Station was drifting overhead at exactly that moment. It was pretty awe-inspiring to see, especially with a Spotted Cow in hand.

#6 – #hellyeahclouds

For me, this summer was a summer of clouds. I spent more time outdoors this summer – biking, covering festivals, wandering aimlessly – than I any other summer in my life. Every once in awhile, I’d look up and see something amazing. Like food photos and cat pictures, Instagram turns out to be quite well suited for those moments of cloud-inspired awe.

#5 – BFFs at Nye’s

At nearly the same moment, Mark, Ben and myself unleashed self-portrait mayhem onto Instagram. Or something. I can’t remember the reason we were all gathered in one place, but I do remember Mark killing it at piano karaoke while we all watched in awe.

#4 – Chippewa River Sunset, Eau Claire

One of my favorite photography projects this year took place in Eau Claire, just a few blocks away from where this Instagram was uploaded. I had never really taken the time to wander around EC, so I got there early enough to catch a sunset on the banks of the Chippewa. Turns out that was a pretty damn good idea.

#3 – IVIG Bubbles

Since getting enrolled in the Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan in late 2011, I spent a good deal of time at the Mayo Clinic getting checked out and rediagnosed with Common Variable Immune Defficiency, a rare (it affects 1 in 50,000, about 6,200 people out of 311 million in the US) genetic immune disorder that I’ve had all my life. Until I managed to get involved with the PCIP, a key provision of the Affordable Care Act, I was dealing with frequent – almost twice-monthly – sinus infections and the constant threat of a run-away infection. Thanks to PCIP and Mayo, 2012 was the year I resumed monthly IV immunoglobulin replacement therapy and I’ve been feeling much better as a result. Although I’ve still got to come up with $5,000-6,000 a year in medical bills, it’s far cheaper than the completely unaffordable $125,000-$150,000 this year of relative health could’ve cost me. Thanks, Obamacare.

#2 – Get Paid

With great medical debt comes great responsibility. This year was also the year my savings ran out, retirement savings I had built up from working a decade in retail and the corporate world. After getting laid off in early 2009, I dedicated my savings (and money from the sale of most of my worldly possessions) to rebuilding my life around a craft, a job I couldn’t get laid off from and a lifestyle that would offer a far more rewarding life. That work started to bear fruit in 2010 and made great strides in 2011, but 2012 was the tipping point. Although things aren’t where I’d like them to be and there were some severe financial setbacks, this was the make-or-break year that proved to me that it’s possible to make things work for now and for the future. Thanks to a diverse group of clients, especially my friends at City Pages, I’ve been able to make my hard work pay off, or at least pay the landlord.

#1 (tie) – First Snow, First Avenue

#1 (tie) – First Snow, 7th Street Entry

And, finally, the winners. On our first day of real snow this year I decided to go downtown for a walk by First Avenue, a place I’ve been spending a lot of time the last three years. These two photos are two of my favorites all year in any form. It wasn’t much fun navigating the icy downtown sidewalks while feeling very sick but it was worth it. I’m already looking for to next year’s first snowstorm.

Bonus Yellowstone Top 5!

My Yellowstone road trip turned into quite a prolific Instagram experience, even with difficulties uploading photos while lacking signal. The photos turned out to be the most popular Instagram posts I’ve ever done and the experience of sharing photos immediately with friends at home and around the world was addictive and rewarding. Frankly, it reinvigorated my interest in photography in ways I’m still discovering. Here are the 5 that stuck with me.

#5 – Tetonic

#4 – Post-Apocalyptic Cycling

#3 – Grand Prismatic

#2 – Black Pool Colors

#1 – Starry Sky

And that’s it! Tomorrow I’ll post another list of favorites from the year, this time with more rock photos guaranteed. :)

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